Lucky Luke by FRNK’s Creators (and More!)
Last week’s issue of Spirou Journal held a special surprise: a complete 6 page “Lucky Luke” story by the creators of “Frank”, Olivier Bocquet and Brice Cossu. It featured on the cover and everything:
You can pick up this issue of the weekly series at Izneo.com. It’ll only cost you $2.29 for 52 pages. After about two years’ worth of serious lessons on DuoLingo, you might just understand half of it.
And even if you can’t read French, the lead story is worth the entire price of admission.
The story plot has Luke riding into town, leaving Jolly at the edge for his own safety, and running in to pick something up. While in there, he comes up against a gang led by the Dalton Brothers who want to kill him. In fact, most of the dialogue in the back half of the story is just them screaming, “Die, Cowboy!”
The bulk of the story is Luke dodging and deflecting bullets while beating everyone up. It’s a bit fantastical: Luke is fast at shooting his gun, but I’m not so sure that means he’s fast enough to deflect multiple bullets shot at him at the same time with a borrowed shovel.
It doesn’t matter, though. The sequence runs so quickly and so fluidly and with such control of the page as a storytelling unit that you’ll forget little things like that and just sit back to enjoy the ride. (I admit that I did think at one point that the whole story was going to turn out to be a dream or something, but it doesn’t. There’s no big twist like that here.)
Cossu’s art is great, as always. His stuff reminds me a bit of Ryan Ottley’s. He has a distinctive cartoony style that’s well detailed and slightly over the top in its action. It stands out and is instantly recognizable. It’s more on the manga side of influences than Ottley, but it is still attractive and technically strong: silhouettes/shadows, movement, foregrounds and backgrounds, etc.
Seriously, Robert Kirkman, if you’re ever looking to do a “Invincible” one shot set in France, Cossu is your man.
Cossu also works well his colorist here, Corgié. The two complement each other nicely, and Corgié does great work in adding some sophisticated sculpting with the colors without being so desperate to make everything look “real.” There’s nice work with textures here, too, adding some dimensionality to the scenes and adding grit to the Old West, as there ought to be.
But it’s the storytelling that grabs the reader so strongly here. Most of it is silent, with a series of people trying to kill Luke while he artfully dodges their attacks. There’s a bit of a running gag going on with Luke’s shadow taking all the hits, too. The bullets hit the shadow, but Luke is faster than that. It’s not an explained phenomenon. It’s not a magical thing. It’s just a fun comedic bit between images of Luke and his shadow. It feels a little fourth wall breaking, a la Imbattable/Mr. Invincible. It’s a gag that runs all the way to the final panel.
You will breeze straight through the story, and you’ll be left wanting more. If they were up for it, I’d love to see Bocquet and Cossu go all out and do an entire album. I wouldn’t care if it was a collection of three short stories. These two creators are made for work like this. It would be a more dynamic and action-packed Luke than the traditional flavor, but I’m all for that kind of experimentation here.
These six pages justify the cost of the magazine. Everything else is a bonus, but there are some very nice bonuses here. Let’s take a look:
These Are Not Your Grandfather’s Smurfs
I enjoyed Tebo’s “Raowl” when I reviewed it a couple years back. He’s still working on that series, though the format for it has changed a bunch. It’s hard to describe, but it looks like less panel to panel storytelling and more characters in a white room talking. I’m sure it’s still funny, but I’ll have to wait for a translation on that. To be honest, I’m not holding my breath expecting one.
He’s had another project running recently, though. He’s doing a Smurfs album. At last, the Smurfs are doing one shot albums where they invite an artist in to do a book in their own style. I love this kind of thing — it’s worked out well for Valerian and Lucky Luke. I think more long-running series should give it a shot. I’d love to see Nob do an entire Smurfs book, for example.
This issue contains a seven page segment from Tebo’s upcoming album.
Tebo goes back and forth with his storytelling techniques here. He has both traditional panel-to-panel storytelling and that blank page talking heads segment. When there’s a Smurfs action piece, he can use the more traditional style, but then go over to the other style when the action slows down and we’re getting more humorous dialogue between characters.
Tebo’s style is wildly different from Peyo’s, obviously. That’s the fun of this kind of album, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. His Smurfs have a greater variety of shapes and sizes. It’s not all one model with decorations for differentiation. He includes all that, too, of course. Brainy still has his glasses and Smurfette still has those long blonde locks. Hefty is twice as large as the others, being the muscle bound character that he is, and the tattoo is still on his arm.
Watch a Smurf slow burn over everyone using “Smurf” to mean any darn thing they want it to mean:
It looks like that’s the only self-referential thing in this excerpt, but the whole thing is fun to look at and read (for as much as my French vocabulary allows).
Fingers crossed that Papercutz picks this book up someday. I’m not holding my breath on that one, either, though.
“Soda” is Not “Alone”
I like Bruno Gazzotti’s artwork on “Alone” a lot. It’s perfect for that title. He makes kids look like kids, and includes enough details to make for a believable world with a style that’s easily approachable and enjoyable.
I know he worked on the “Soda” series the past, but none of that has ever been translated to English. He’s back on “Soda” now, though I don’t know for how long. But it’s really weird to see him drawing something else. I associate his style to “Alone” so strongly that it’s tough to see other characters in his style with no hint of monkeys attacking or kids going all Lord of the Flies behind the main character.
Apologies for being lazy, but I didn’t work on translating these pages. I read what I could and took in the art. It’s a relatively wordy comic, and I don’t have the patience to put in that much work at the moment. It looks good, though. I await any Soda translations someone may one day throw at us…
Last Two Things, I Promise
There’s a lot more in the magazine, but I’ll pick out two returning artists worth talking about here.
First, one of my all time favorite European artists, Jose Luis Munuera, continues to draw “Les Coeurs de Ferraille” series, which is basically Little House on the Prairie with robots, as far as I can tell. The series is written by Beka, who also wrote the “Dance Class” series of books that Papercutz published in their earlier days.
Sounds like a good combination to me.
There is violence against a dog in this issue, though. I might be becoming too much of a dog person to get through that sequence…
Finally, the issue ends with another single page gag from Nob’s “Dad” series. This time, Dad is rocking out in public, surely embarrassing his daughters.
I’m not sure what song he’s singing in that first panel, though. Is it a French tune? I’m assuming so, since he’s not singing in English. Google Translate says it works out to “It takes little to be happy.”
More to Come
I love “Spirou Journal.” It’s an anthology title, which means there’s lots of stuff in every issue that isn’t to my taste. However, there’s usually enough there to make flipping through its pages worth it on a regular basis.
It’s also a little frustrating, since I know most of what I’d love to read will likely never get translated. C’est la vie!
I’ve been collecting some back issues, too, in recent years. I’ve shown some of those off, but I have a few more on the way now that I’m excited to get and talk about. So stay tuned…
Do you think any Japanese Manga artists or Mangakas will try their hand at Lucky Luke or any other kind of Franco Belgian or European comics at all?
It’s always possible. There’s a big enough manga-reading audience over there for something like that, but there’s also a big divide about “traditional” art versus Japanese art, not terribly dissimilar to what we see here in North America. I wouldn’t rule it out, but I’m not knowledgeable enough to know who might fit into such a role from the manga side of things.
Have you ever heard of the American publisher and distributor of Japanese manga and anime Viz Media at all before? What if Viz Media got into European comics and cartoons someday?